Each year there are numerous new flagships that are launched to great wonder and awe, especially from the leading OEMs. Over the last year or two, there’s been a noticeable trend at the top in that one cannot simply throw a ton of computing power into a tiny rectangular device and expect potential customers to be happy with it. Instead, a lot of thought and effort goes into the features of each new device, as well as included hardware such as the camera, screen layout and even trivial matters like the positioning of the fingerprint sensor, now a must for any smartphone above the entry-level marker. As such, more mid-range smartphones have become more popular, as services and eco-systems from flagship devices could trickle down to the lower echelons. The latest mid-range smartphone we received for review comes in the form of the LG Q7.
Build and Design
Although it’s labelled as a mid-range device, the Q7 feels impressively premium. And it’s lightweight. By most modern standards, whether mid-range or flagship, the Q7 is very light, weighing in at just 145g. It may not be as thin as it’s more lavish older brother, the G7 ThinQ, as the name suggests, but at 8.5mm it’s as thick as the Samsung Galaxy S9. The unit we received came in an Aurora Black colour, which looked amazing lying on the table. Often asked the question about the phone, many were surprised that the unit was actually only a mid-range tier smartphone. While there may be a few similarities with the G7 device, the Q7 looks most like last year’s G6 flagship. This isn’t a bad thing, however, as I enjoyed the look of that too.
The build quality is great too, finished in a matte black aluminium, which feels cool in hand. The ergonomics of the device is also well thought out with a fingerprint sensor in the top centre of the rear where your index finger can easily access it. There’s also some changes over the Q7’s bezel and screen layout, but more on that in the section below. The unit also includes an IP68 rating, which means that it’s water (up to 1.5m for 30 minutes) and dust resistant. Interestingly, it’s the latter that caused some issues, as the rear seemed to be some kind of dust magnet of sorts. It only takes a few minutes after being wiped clean for it to pick up some fine dust particles, which meant that it consistently required a wipe down throughout the day. I’d put most of this down to the static created by being in my pocket and the materials used on the rear. Either way, it isn’t a good look, but nothing serious, and nothing a case can’t solve.
Again, despite its mid-range tier, the unit includes a USB Type-C charging port, which also supports fast-charging. There aren’t many other mid-range smartphones sporting these specs in the market currently.
Screen and Display
There’s been a lot said about the smartphone screen in the last two years since the standardisation of the bezel-less form factor. Even more so after Apple released their iPhone X with the infamous notch. While the G7 ThinQ also featured the notch, I’m glad to confirm that the Q7 does not. It may not have the highest screen-to-body ratio at 77.3%, but makes for much better viewing without the notch on the top side of the screen.
The unit has a 5.5” IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, with a 1080x2160px resolution display and 442ppi pixel density. This is expected resolution (approximately) for many mid-range smartphones, with many still lagging way below this with 720p displays. One wouldn’t expect that it would be able to compete with the likes of the more mainstream smartphones, but the Q7 is more than capable of holding its own at the top. The display features crisp colour reproduction, great contrast levels, and zero pixelation. More often than not the screen is the most notable difference between mid-range and flagship smartphones, but that’s not the case here at all. The screen and display are just brilliant and great for movies, games and the likes.
Performance and Battery
There are two variants of the Q7 – one which includes a Qualcomm SoC, and the other which includes a Mediatek SoC. The unit we received, and the unit available in South Africa, is the latter. The Mediatek chipset features an Octa-core CPU (4×1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×1.0 GHz Cortex-A53), along with a Mali-T860MP2 GPU, 3GB RAM, and 32GB internal storage, running on Android 8.1 Oreo.
During the two weeks of use with the Q7, I experienced no lag or any bugs related to performance. I was surprised too that it handled quite a number of games and settings that I often have issues with on so many other mid-range units. Let’s be honest, you won’t experience flagship-level performance, but it’s still satisfactory for what you’re paying. More so actually. While I’m not the biggest proponent of benchmark tests and scores, especially when a few companies have been known to be able to detect certain benchmarks, they do play a role in giving some background to performances observed. That said, the Q7 scored a decent 54,500 and some change running on the AnTuTu v7.1.0 tool. This is a fairly decent score, and up slightly on many other mid-range devices.
That said, there are a lot more factors to consider when considering a mid-range smartphone, and with a great screen and display, and decent performance, the Q7 is already on the right track. When it comes to the battery and performance, the unit sports a fairly large 3,000mAh, non-removable battery. The battery is capable of a full workday’s worth of use, roughly 9-10 hours for heavy usage throughout the day. For more moderate days, I was able to make it through a complete day and still have between 10 and 15% remaining by the time I go to bed. This is on par with many smartphones on the market today, even compared to some of the flagship units.
Camera and Software
The South African variant of the Q7 features a 13MP camera, with f/2.2 aperture and 1.12µm sensor. The more premium version of the Q7 features a 16MP camera. For the most part, the camera captures great quality photos in good light, with vivid colours and composition. But, as with many mid-range cameras, if not more, the unit loses a lot of its quality when moving into less favourable lighting conditions. It’s not the worst I’ve seen around, and will get the job done, but nothing you’d immediately think to print and frame. Overall, though, I wouldn’t expect too many arguments or disappointments about its quality.
Running on Android 8.1 Oreo, the Q7 has the latest features available to the OS. I liked most of the features included in the build, but there isn’t very much additional in that regard over and above the vanilla build. One of the main changes in the firmware is the home screen layout, which I don’t particularly enjoy. Thankfully, there are apps to get around the native experience if you wish.
There are also a few add-on features and capabilities on the Q7 to really drive home the advantage over most mid-range units. For starters, it has surround sound enabled, along with facial recognition, Bluetooth 4.2 BLE, and is also MIL-STD 810G compliant, if you needed it.
On paper alone, the LG Q7 has some really good specifications that would clearly be a worthwhile look if you’re in the market for a good mid-range smartphone. At a retail price of R5,999, the unit is quite the steal when you consider all that the unit has available, and is definitely value for your money. You won’t find too many “wow” features that are often sold with flagship smartphones, but knowing that many users will only play around with these for the first month, maybe even the first week, you don’t really need all the additional frills. The Q7 is lightweight with a fairly large screen, offers great performance, even better viewing, and ticks pretty much all the boxes. No doubt, then, that the LG has struck the right balance with this unit, and will be in the running for best mid-range smartphone of 2018.